PICO NEIGHBORHOOD — A disturbing reminder that tension still exists between local gangs surfaced Sunday morning when residents living near Virginia Avenue Park awoke to find threatening gang graffiti scrawled on a wall between 20th Street and Cloverfield Boulevard.
Police said the graffiti specifically called out a Santa Monica gang and included the number “187,” the California Penal Code for homicide. Graffiti was also found near the Venice border, said SMPD Sgt. Jay Trisler.
Graffiti has been called the newspaper or bulletin board for gangs and communicates many messages, including challenges, warnings and pronouncements of deeds accomplished or about to occur, gang experts said.
“As far as we know there is nothing really triggering this,” Trisler said. “This has happened before and it is always disconcerting to see that.”
Officers working with gangs have made contact with the Virginia Avenue Park Teen Center staff and the Pico Youth & Family Center to inform them of the graffiti, Trisler said. Officers have also been in contact with their counterparts in LAPD’s Pacific Division to make them aware of the graffiti.
Oscar de la Torre, a school board member and executive director of the youth center, which works with teens who may be considering joining a gang, said the graffiti is a warning that tensions are rising and a collaborative approach between law enforcement and youth groups is needed to stem the tide of violence.
“A new era of collaboration between schools, non-profits, community and law enforcement, with a focus on gang prevention and intervention will one day bring hope to the youth who are at-risk of gang membership,” de la Torre said.